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Programma en keynotes


Abstracts keynotes

Dr. Maarten van Leeuwen (Leiden University)

The linguistic realization of populist rhetorical strategies: a linguistic-stylistic approach

Although there is still an ongoing debate how ‘populism’ should be defined exactly, there is broad consensus among political scientists that populist discourse has certain distinguishing traits. One of its key characteristics is that populists present themselves emphatically as political outsiders who stand up for the will and interest of the common man (e.g. Rooduijn & Akkerman 2017; Moffitt 2016; Jagers & Walgrave 2007). In order to create and maintain such an image, populists are claimed to make use of a range of rhetorical strategies, like ‘putting the people in the centre of interest’, ‘appealing to the will of the people’, ‘positioning oneself as anti-establishment’, employing ‘bad manners’, using ‘colourful’, ‘direct’, ‘adversarial’ and/or ‘emotional’ language, etc. Such characterizations are of an impressionistic nature: they do not specify the concrete linguistic ‘building blocks’ that make the discourse of populists ‘people centered’, ‘adversarial’, etc. This lack of insight in the exact ‘building blocks’ of populist discourse is seen as one of the most important lacuna’s in the study of populism (Block & Negrine 2017; Stanyer et al. 2016).

In my talk, I will argue that a linguistic-stylistic approach (Stukker & Verhagen 2019; Van Leeuwen 2015) offers the tools for analyzing the linguistic ‘building blocks’ of populist rhetorical strategies in a systematic, in-depth and nuanced way. Linguistic stylistics starts from the insight that language users almost always have a choice in describing objects or states of affairs in reality, and that such stylistic variants steer the hearer in the direction of drawing different conclusions. In a linguistic-stylistic analysis it is made plausible, on the basis of linguistic analysis, that stylistic choices create particular effects.

In order to demonstrate what a linguistic-stylistic approach can offer to the study of populism, I will zoom in on one or two concrete case studies.



  • Block, E. & R. Negrine (2017). The populist communication style: Toward a critical framework. International Journal of Communication, 11, 178-197.
  • Jagers, J. & S. Walgrave (2007). Populism as political communication style: An empirical study of political parties’ discourse in Belgium. European Journal of Political Research, 46, 319-345.
  • Leeuwen, M. van (2015). Stijl en politiek. Een taalkundig-stilistische benadering van Nederlandse parlementaire toespraken. Utrecht: LOT dissertation series.
  • Moffitt, B. (2016). The global rise of populism: Performance, political style, and representation. Standford: Standford University Press.
  • Rooduijn, M. & T. Akkerman (2017). Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in western Europe. Party Politics, 23(3), 193-204.
  • Stanyer, J., Salgado, S. & J. Strömbäck (2016). Populist actors as communicators or political actors as populist communicators: Cross-national findings and perspectives. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 353-364). New York: Routledge.
  • Stukker, N. & A. Verhagen (2019). Stijl, taal en tekst. Stilistiek op taalkundige basis. Leiden University Press.


Dr. Marije Michel (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)

Ch@t @lignment  – Language learning via text messaging

Text chat (e.g., whatsapp) is a pervasive means of communication in 21st century modern societies. Many people engage in these digitally mediated conversations in another language than their mother tongue but little is known, how text chat might support second language (L2) learning. In this talk I will present recent work that investigates text chat as a place for second language acquisition (SLA).

First, I will demonstrate how the specific characteristics of text chat (e.g., visual salience and permanence) make it an ideal context for L2 learning. Next, I will zoom in on my own research where I examine socio-cognitive processes of alignment during L2 text chat. Linguistic alignment, that is, the natural tendency to copy the morphosyntactic and lexical structures of an interlocutor during conversation, has recently received growing attention in SLA research. An important question is whether L2 alignment draws on largely implicit and automatic processes, as is assumed for native speaker alignment (Pickering & Ferreira, 2008).

In pursuit of this research question, I will showcase my work on digitally mediated L2 alignment that looked at various source and target languages (e.g., German in the UK, Spanish in Germany), used a variety of methods including corpus techniques and eye-tracking, and investigated alignment in classroom-based studies at high-school as well as lab-based experiments with university students. My findings suggest that some morphosyntactic and lexical structures are more prone to alignment than others and that some contextual factors (e.g., interactional partner) and individual differences mediate the extent to which L2 learners align to their chat partner.